20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Chicago

Jul 22, 2021

With over 300 days of sunshine a year, four seasons, and a temperate, maritime climate, Chicago, United States is the ideal travel destination. Its extraordinary history, its long list of historic landmarks, and its plethora of attractions are ripe for exploration by the visitor. Whether a history buff, a culture seeker, a sports fan, or even just an outdoor enthusiast, Chicago has it all.

No matter the reason for your trip to the city of the big shoulders, what is certain is that Chicago is a city that does not like to go in one particular direction. Unlike many other American metropolises, the city is rich in multicultural influences, making the culinary experience quite unique. A visitor can eat Chinese or Mexican food, shop for British designer goods, or find cheap Italian meals.

For your enjoyment, Travel123 offers a variety of top Chicago attractions, and here is a brief introduction to some of the top tourist attractions in the United States, located in and around the city of Chicago.

Millennium Park

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Millennium Park: en.wikipedia.org

Designed as the focal point of Millennium Park, this magnificent outdoor square in the center of Chicago, also known as City Hall Park, was developed by the Chicago Park District in partnership with the Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to accommodate visitors to the upcoming millennium celebrations in the city. Designed to include theater, music, art and public gathering, the Millennium Park offers a truly unique experience to Chicago residents and visitors alike. Some highlights of the park include The Crown Fountain, home to the five sculptures of gargoyles, "Statues of Unity" in the Picasso Sculpture Garden, The Crown Presidio Theater, "For the Arts" sculpture, the Millennium Monument and the Richard F. Daley Terrace and Garden. The park's most-attended attraction, The Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) by artist Anish Kapoor, debuted in 2004 as a dynamic form of sculpture for the city. Milwaukee's Milwaukee Art Museum, designed in a Renaissance revival style by Santiago Calatrava, is the largest museum of art in the Midwest. Designed to resemble the spine of an elephant, it houses more than 30,000 items representing more than 3,500 artists from every period of art history.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Art Institute of Chicago: en.wikipedia.org

The Chicago Art Institute offers one of the finest collections of art in the country, with permanent and temporary exhibits showing a wide range of artwork spanning five millennia, including a stunning variety of Roman and Byzantine sculpture. The superbly proportioned exhibition space with its subdued lighting and ample views of the lake are particularly impressive. The 100,000-square-foot I. M. Pei-designed addition with its sleek glass-and-metal walls and flooring dates from 2004, but the artwork in the rest of the museum has been unchanged since 1935. Among the exhibits worth visiting are the Cy Twombly: a tribute to Italy and a dream of a reborn Italy, an installation consisting of a total of 117 paintings, all over 4,000 square feet and most of them in triptychs. Also on view is a fantastical, colorful 15-piece pre-Columbian "Mother and Child" statue from Mexico. Two substantial galleries contain temporary exhibits and the well-stocked Gift Shop sells objects from around the world.

Lincoln Park Zoo

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Lincoln Park Zoo: en.wikipedia.org

Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the largest urban zoological parks in the world and draws more than 2.3 million visitors a year. Its more than 12,000 animals from the United States, Argentina, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan are spread across 92 acres of beautifully landscaped zoo grounds. Highlights of a visit include the giant pandas; the opportunity to view resident and working gorillas; the Asian elephant rides; and the wonderful aquarium with its underwater educational programs. The museum is home to the world's largest "Tallest Tank," which holds the amazing record of 7.6 million gallons.

Museum of Science and Industry

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Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago): en.wikipedia.org

The Museum of Science and Industry is an award-winning museum in Chicago, in the United States of America. It is known for its numerous inventions and interactive exhibitions, as well as its history-making exploration exhibits. Highlights include an IMAX cinema, the planetarium, underground science museum, and the Bloor Planetarium, which features The Museum of Natural History, Chicago's other science museum.

Chicago Cultural Center

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Chicago Cultural Center: en.wikipedia.org

This classic Chicago landmark stands at the heart of the city's Loop, just north of Michigan Avenue, a short walk from Lake Michigan. The Cultural Center houses the best of Chicago's cultural offerings, from the world-class Shedd Aquarium to the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. The Main Art Gallery is divided into several rooms covering a diverse range of artistic styles, from ancient Egyptian statues to modern American pieces. There are additional special exhibits on the top floor of the Cultural Center's landmark Atrium and an auditorium for live performances. The south building has a restaurant and bookstore and a snack bar in its lobby.

Lincoln Park

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Lincoln Park, Chicago: en.wikipedia.org

The finest park in Chicago, Lincoln Park offers many of the city's most beautiful architectural gems and is replete with museums, historic sites, and one of the largest public art collections in the world. The north entrance is divided into several blocks of shopping and dining establishments, while the south entry area offers a number of historic residential structures dating back to the nineteenth century. Most of Lincoln Park's structures date to the late 19th century. These include the neoclassical buildings of the Auditorium Theater, which sits on the southeast corner of the park's main oval, and the magnificent Art Deco Museum of Science and Industry, designed by architect Alfred Zuck. Other structures include the West Gate Tower at the northern entrance, the perfect spot from which to view Grant Park and Lake Michigan, and the matching East Gate Tower, which resembles the Arch of Constantine in Rome. The park is one of Chicago's finest and busiest, and many visitors consider it their favorite place to go when in the city. The Conservatory of Flowers, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, has more than 20,000 exotic plants representing more than 1,500 species from all over the world. There are also a number of smaller themed gardens, including a Butterfly Garden, an Evergreen Garden, and a Children's Garden.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

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Lincoln Park Conservatory: en.wikipedia.org

This state-of-the-art glass-roofed conservatory, one of the largest greenhouses in the world, opened in 1921. It's widely considered as a major example of Streamline Moderne architecture, and contains several original Art Deco interiors. Visitors can enjoy the conservatory's varied exhibits, from orchids and carnivorous plants to tropical orchids and cacti, and learn more about the history of the largest greenhouses in the world, which was the world's largest until 1928, when it was surpassed by a greenhouse in Detroit, Michigan. Entry is free, but admission to the fascinating museum in the lower building costs $5. Exhibits include the history of the building, along with photographs of plantlife throughout the years.

Chicago Children's Museum

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Chicago Children's Museum: en.wikipedia.org

Chicago Children's Museum (Cadet Youth Museum) is a fun-filled space with engaging exhibits designed to nurture creativity and develop confidence and initiative in children. The museum has four locations, with this fifth one opening in the spring of 2013. The newest, the Harold Washington Cultural Center, is named after the city's first African-American mayor. It opened in July 2012 with an updated collection of art, multicultural art, hands-on exhibits, and a sculpture garden.

Wrigley Building

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Wrigley Building: en.wikipedia.org

The Wrigley Building is an early skyscraper designed by architect William Burnham in the French Beaux-Arts style. The original facade was torn down in 1931 and replaced by a modernist, cubistic design, but the building has retained much of its original detailing, including the use of Chicago brick and red terra-cotta tile. It is currently home to a major branding agency, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., and it also houses offices for other businesses and the Chicago Board of Trade. The building is located on the south side of State Street, between Monroe Street and Clark Street, with views of Lake Michigan. It is included in the Chicago Loop and Streeterville Districts and is Chicago's first designated National Historic Landmark.

The Magnificent Mile

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Magnificent Mile: en.wikipedia.org

The Magnificent Mile is Chicago's most famous shopping district, lying between Michigan Avenue and Chicago's Michigan Avenue. It is lined with department stores such as Lord & Taylor, D.D. Mart, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus, which are mainly at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Michigan Boulevard. Also included in the district is the vibrant Michigan Avenue scene, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Also in the neighborhood are the Chicago Water Tower and the new Navy Pier, with various shops and restaurants and a marina and parks, as well as Millennium Park, the heart of a new renaissance in downtown Chicago.

Shedd Aquarium

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Shedd Aquarium: en.wikipedia.org

Home to more than 5,000 aquatic creatures, Shedd Aquarium is the world's largest aquarium. It's in the heart of the city, and the best way to visit is from above. A glass walkway around the building's perimeter contains the aquarium's water. In it, a dense underwater forest of plants and animals share the space with sharks, sea otters, and other creatures. The larger the display, the more impressive the animal. Housed in the biggest tank in the aquarium is the beluga whale, which is about 3-4 times the size of a normal whale. Getting to Shedd Aquarium can be a challenge as you'll have to travel on a boat ride or take the underground monorail, but the overall experience is definitely worth it.

Museum of Contemporary Art

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago: en.wikipedia.org

MCA Chicago is an art museum and sculpture park located in the heart of downtown, right on the Chicago River. It houses a collection of over 3,000 works of modern and contemporary art, along with rotating exhibits and a permanent collection focused on contemporary sculpture. There are multiple special exhibits throughout the year, and two special events of note include the Biennial Exhibition, which showcases some of the country's best artists each June, and Chicago Architecture Biennial, held annually in January.

Riverwalk

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Chicago Riverwalk: en.wikipedia.org

Riverwalk is a walkway under and along the Chicago River. It's a 9-mile walkway from Congress to Devon Avenues, taking you along the river with street musicians, lighting displays and nighttime river views. It's a place for people of all walks of life to gather and spend some quality time as well as being a mecca for a night out. There's also an elevated walkway from Millennium Park that offers a different perspective on the city. It's also a great place to just hang out and relax if you get there at night or early in the morning. This can be a pleasant place to stop for a few hours to view the sun rise over the city from. For food lovers, visit Chicago's first food hall, Thalia.

Field Museum of Natural History

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Field Museum of Natural History: en.wikipedia.org

One of the world's most respected museums of natural history, the Field Museum of Natural History is a unique collection of zoological treasures in a massive Greek Revival building that's also home to "specimens" ranging from dinosaur remains to the odd and curious. Field is the natural history arm of the University of Chicago and, with over 1.5 million specimens, the museum is a treasure trove of specimens of various shapes and sizes. One of the world's leading paleontology and osteology collections houses dinosaur skeletons; among them is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the largest complete skeletons of any dinosaur species known. Be sure to check the multimedia screens for detailed information, including a narrated tour of the displays in an assortment of languages, and always be sure to take your walking shoes for the museum's well-designed and well-maintained interior trail.

Adler Planetarium

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Adler Planetarium: en.wikipedia.org

In 1897 the Adler brothers opened the Chicago Observatory on the city's South Side. For the next 70 years the Adlers collaborated with the great astronomer Percival Lowell to create a facility unparalleled at the time. Completed in 1930, the world's first planetarium featured a 72-foot dome and the largest equatorial telescope in existence. The planetarium became a unique experience for the Chicago public, attracting more than four million visitors per year, with a peak capacity of more than 15,000 for planetarium shows, lectures and special events. Two permanent public galleries contain both permanent and changing exhibits on astronomy, space exploration, and Earth science. The Adler's building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The John G. Shedd Aquarium, a five-minute ride from the planetarium, is another museum known for the quality and variety of its collections, which include animals found in local waters and the world's largest indoor collection of sharks. The museum also has a large library with more than 20,000 volumes on topics such as marine biology and other subjects. The Adler Planetarium, or Adler, as it's usually called, opened to the public on April 21, 1933, by Percival Lowell, the great astronomer who also discovered the planet Pluto, but who died in 1900 without seeing his creation through the telescope. The planetarium was a gift from his family to the city of Chicago.

The Loop

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Chicago Loop: en.wikipedia.org

One of the biggest names in marketing, advertising, and graphic design, The Loop is probably best known for its tall building, the Michael S. Allen Center, on Michigan Avenue. It also features the Music Box Theatre, which gives shoppers and visitors a glimpse into what an actual cinema used to be like. The Loop is just south of Wacker Drive, and is the economic heart of the city. Some of the main shopping districts in Chicago include Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and Lake Shore Drive. Lincoln Park, which offers a beach, is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Chicago Theatre

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Chicago: en.wikipedia.org

Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1892, the Chicago Theatre (originally known as the Grand Theatre) is considered one of the foremost examples of his Prairie style of architecture. The building is a single-story of steel and glass with flat arches and a beautiful roof. Like many of Wright's works, the interiors are simple, void of superfluous ornaments. The theatre has been a major force in Chicago's cultural life since opening in 1895. It became the permanent home of the Lyric Opera in 1931 and was also the site of the first American performance of Benjamin Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1935.

Trump Tower

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Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago): en.wikipedia.org

This iconic skyscraper became a symbol of the New York-based billionaire Donald Trump's personal wealth, though he continues to maintain a home in this beautiful city where he was born and raised. The tower, built in Chicago in 1973, remains one of the city's most recognizable landmarks and is the tallest building in the United States. There's a wealth of things to do in Chicago, including touring the Willis Tower Skydeck, going shopping in Millennium Park, going to a Cubs game, seeing a show at Chicago's famous Broadway Theater District, and even paying homage to the city's signature sport, baseball.

Ravinia

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Ravinia Festival: en.wikipedia.org

Ravinia is a stunning outdoor park in the heart of Chicago. With more than 250-acres of lakeside and prairie parkland, Ravinia attracts around 1.5 million people every year to hear music performed on its acres of pristine lawns, natural ponds, meadows and lush gardens. Seventy-two national and international artists perform each year during the month-long Ravinia Festival. These artists are a well-chosen mix of headline performers, musical legends, singer/songwriters and lesser known acts, including many well-established artists who have sold millions of albums, singles and other music sales.

Water Tower

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Chicago Water Tower: en.wikipedia.org

Climbing 311 steps to the top of Chicago's Water Tower is an ambitious undertaking. One of the city's most visible and most photographed landmarks, the Water Tower is a massive cast-iron structure at the northeast corner of the center of the Loop. Although the rest of the city is impressive, the Water Tower stands out as a rare example of an unspoiled 19th-century work of architecture. The tower's color, unique construction method, and the bronze statue of Mayor Carter Harrison that crowns its top all make the Water Tower an intriguing place to visit. There are also popular attractions such as the famous Millennium Park in the foreground and shops, restaurants, and some of the world's best museums in the Loop to the south of the tower.